Knowing how to get and understand data, and then knowing how to use it to engage the public is becoming central to political campaigns and activism. We saw yet another example of this last Friday when Barack Obama and his team took to Twitter encouraging Americans to contact their lawmakers to urge them to reach a compromise on the debt ceiling issue.

The overall effect of the call to action can be debated. There are certainly those who have taken issue with what the President did. Some say his loss of roughly 36,000 followers (just over one-third of one per cent of his 9.4 million followers) was a decisive blow. Some have equated his campaign with spam. I disagree.

Using the “two per cent rule” often cited by advertisers and marketers as a conversion sweet spot, I contend that President Obama would be successful if he were to get 188,000 people (the equivalent of two per cent of his following) to contact their law makers. That seems entirely plausible given the estimated population of 309 million.

I used Sysomos MAP to do some analysis of the campaign.

  • An estimated total of 141,779 tweets using the hashtag #compromise were issued in the last seven days.
  • Those tweets have an estimated reach of 1 billion potential views.
  • Not surprisingly, the traffic was largely based in the U.S. (85.4%).
  • A sample set indicates participants were predominantly male (67%).
  • Original tweets account for just over one-quarter of the traffic (29.19%) and another quarter represents replies or what I identify as conversation (25.57%). The remainder of Twitter traffic – just less than half of all tweets – is retweets or rebroadcasts; something I call the amplifier effect.

But that’s not all. The #compromise campaign earned the President more than 40,365 news mentions and 28,645 blog mentions. The overall reach of the campaign is immense.

Congress was able to achieve a compromise. It will be hard to measure what role President Obama’s Twitter campaign actually played in giving the economy another reprieve. Strictly by the numbers, though, it’s fair to say losing fewer than one percent of a significant Twitter following to buy some time for the economy was a wise investment.